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"Until All Are Free" Recap

For the over 200 who gather at the ReconcilingWorks Assembly this past weekend and all who held us in prayer, thank you for creating a sacred space for all to find community, celebrate ReconcilingWorks successes, and to share your wisdom on how to best move our mission forward. We are grateful for the great cloud of witness who are committed to doing the important and challenging work to ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people and families have a safe place to worship and to thrive. 


My Lutheran Faith Community Performs Same Gender Weddings!

ReconcilingWorks is already getting calls about Lutheran congregations who will be providing marriages for couples affected by this ruling.


2015 ELCA Youth Gathering: Our Rainbow Proclamation

ReconcilingWorks Staff hold up youth gathering signs
"Beloved, Child of God, In God's Image, Unique, Authentic." These are just some of the affirming messages that ReconcilingWorks will be sending to the over 30,000 youth at the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit, Michigan.
Rainbow SignageOur most colorfully extravagant year ever, the theme of this year's ReconcilingWorks booth is "Find another word." Our invitation is simple: let's use language that includes rather than excludes, is constructive instead of destructive, and gives worth and dignity to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. 
Our booth fits well with the theme of theProclaim Community, the Youth Gathering's outside organization space this year. What is our rainbow proclamation? "We are one in Christ!"
Ryan Muralt, ReconcilingWorks Program and Development Associate, will be leading our efforts in Detroit along with Merton Spencer, US-6 Regional Coordinator, and many terrific local volunteers.
"We're very excited to bring an extravagant welcoming presence to the Youth Gathering," Ryan said. "It is important that we specifically listed gay, lesbian, queer, bisexual, and transgender identities on our signage to ensure young people who hold those identities know they are not only visible, but embraced."
Do you know a young person attending the 2015 Youth Gathering? You can make a gift in their honor by clicking here. Make sure you select "In honor of" in the gift type and put name in the "Details" field.
Make a gift in honor of a youth

ReconcilingWorks responds to ELCA pastoral letter regarding Supreme Court decision

RWKS scotus ELCA

RWKS response ELCA SCOTUS"As the nation celebrates the recent Supreme Court ruling granting the freedom to marry in all fifty states, ReconcilingWorks yearns for a time when the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will find a way to speak clearly, without reservation or caveat, about the dignity and value of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) lives as they are lived out in relationship and in family. We covet the day when the Church embraces in holiness and into wholeness people of all sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions by boldly naming them as Beloved. We look forward to a world without outcasts, when all are strengthened for authentic, visible, faithful lives." 

Read more from the letter here.

ReconcilingWorks Rejoices at Supreme Court Decisions on the Freedom to Marry

ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation responds with joy to today's Supreme Court decision on the freedom to marry.

ReconcilingWorks applauds the court's decision to recognize the fundamental right for all people to have equal access to marriage. For the first time, the U.S. government, working through the Supreme Court, has recognized categorically committed, loving relationships of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are equal and should have equal protection under the law in all states and the District of Columbia.

Obergefell v. Hodges, as the case is known, represents a milestone on the road to fuller participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in society. Writing for the majority of the Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy said “[T]he Nation’s traditions make clear that marriage is a keystone of the Nation’s social order. . . . There is no difference between same- and opposite-sex couples with respect to this principle, yet same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage and are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would find intolerable. It is demeaning to lock same-sex couples out of a central institution of the Nation’s society, for they too may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage.”

SCOTUS 2015aWe believe the court’s ruling is a blessing to society and the church. Recognizing the freedom to marry for all is good for the flourishing for people and families. Marriage is a way for committed couples who choose to exchange lifelong promises of mutual responsibility to care for and support each other, through the peaks and valleys of life, asking friends, family, and, in many cases, their faith communities, to support them and hold them accountable. Marriage also helps provide for legal and social structures in which these relationships are lived out.

For Lutherans, marriage and family life is a vocation, one of the ways God does God’s work in us and through us for the sake of the world.

“Today is a day for the history books, and has left my heart filled with indescribable joy! However, this is not where the story and history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer liberation and equity ends,” said Aubrey Thonvold, Executive Director of ReconcilingWorks. “Today marks a tremendous milestone on the journey of justice. We give thanks to all those would have courageously supported and worked for the freedom to marry in our country. With a full heart, I give thanks for this day and fix my eyes on tomorrow knowing LGBTQ history is still being written.”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has yet to endorse the freedom to marry for LGBT couples, although its 2009 social statement Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust (2009) has declared support for "legislation and policies to protect civil rights" for all people and has committed to "attend to the need for equal protection, equal opportunities, and equal responsibilities under the law" for all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families.

The ELCA has allowed marriages for LGBT couples in ELCA congregations in states where legal since 2009, but the denomination does not provide a liturgical resource for marriage ceremonies that are inclusive of LGBT couples.

ReconcilingWorks celebrates today’s court decision as a great step forward.  However, our organization recognizes the freedom to marry will not be enough to dismantle injustices based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, race, ethnicity, and other social categories.

Together striving side by side people of faith must continue to courageously work in the church and society for justice and equity for LGBT people and families. For example: recently, in Indiana, Louisiana, and North Carolina, legal developments have allowed for egregious discrimination against LGBT people, essentially empowering individuals, business, and state agencies to claim that any number of laws and regulations do not apply to them, as long as they appeal to a “sincerely held religious belief.”

Grave injustices remain in public housing, health care, voting rights, immigration, the prison system, and elsewhere. Violence against LGBT people, especially transgender people and LGBT people of color, happens every day.

We look forward to our continued partnership in Christ’s ministry of reconciliation, proclaiming good news to the poor, release to the captives, and freedom for the oppressed (Luke 4:18). 

ReconcilingWorks is already getting calls about Lutheran congregations who will be providing marriages for couples affected by this ruling. To date ReconcilingWorks has tracked if a congregation provides blessing services. Now ReconcilingWorks will also start tracking if a congregation provides marriages for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) couples. Regardless of your faith community's Reconciling in Christ (RIC) status, if you provide marriage services, please fill out this form so ReconcilingWorks staff can provide up-to-date and accurate information for LGBT couples who are inquiring. RIC setting info will be added to the setting's public profile. Non-RIC congregations info will be held in house and used only by ReconcilingWorks.

On our Reconciling in Christ webpage, mar is the icon used to show congregations who do LGBT marriage services. If your congregation does LGBT weddings, and you do not have an icon next to your name, fill out this Google form to be added to the list. NOTE: If a congregation does not have the icon next to their name, it may mean the congregation has not yet indicated so to us. Individual Lutheran clergy (in, between, or out of calls) are welcome to indicate that they will perform LGBT weddings. Just fill out the top portion of this form (your contact information) and leave the lower part blank (your faith community's information). We will share this list as individuals needing wedding services inquire.


PA Bishops Support LGBT Anti-Discrimination Bill

Lutheran Advocacy PA:

Harrisburg, PA — The seven Pennsylvania bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America released a letter June 18 in support of legislation that would amend the Pennsylvania Public Relations Act to prohibit discrimination in areas of employment, housing and public accommodation on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Read the letter

“At this moment there is an opportunity for us to add our voices in support of a piece of legislation that could provide continuing legal protection for one particularly vulnerable group of our people,” the bishops state in the letter “In Support of Fairness for All Pennsylvanians.”

The letter anticipates introduction of legislation to update the 1955 Human Relations Act to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression” to the list of groups of people who are provided legal protection from discrimination.  Several ELCA synods in Pennsylvania, meeting in assembly, took action to add increased capacity to the voices of those who support this legislation.

The letter points to the imagery of the “peaceable kingdom,” described in Isaiah 11:6, in which “the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.”

The words anticipate a renewal of all creation in which the identity of each creature remains but none experiences any harm from the others.

“It is the fulfillment of this vision for which people of faith yearn, and toward which they call their neighbors,” the bishops say in the letter. “The work of public advocacy, at its best, replaces the timid silence of resignation to what is, with a bold voice giving expression to what could be...  Members of our congregations who have experienced discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity have told their stories of being particularly vulnerable to harm in public settings.  They are not alone, of course.  Many of our people have experienced bullying because of physical attributes that make them targets.  Many have suffered indignity and humiliation because their way of living stands out as different.  Many know the spiritual pain of rejection and scorn because of their religious convictions.  There seems to be no lack of occasion for people of faith to speak a bold word of comfort and protective welcome to those who suffer harm.”

South Carolina RIC Congregation Featured in GLAAD Documentary

ReconcilingWorks is proud to share "GLAAD Presents: State of Change -- South Carolina," GLAAD's new mini-documentary that examines the triumphs and tribulations of South Carolina's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

It prominently features the Reconciling in Christ program and Reformation Lutheran Church in Columbia, SC around the 6:30 minute mark. Reformation made news last Fall when Pastor Tim Bupp announced the congregation's plans to be one of the first to perform LGBT weddings as the freedom to marry became legal in the Palmetto state.

The 20-minute film was produced as part of GLAAD's Southern Stories program and is the first in a six-part series of short documentaries that aim to accelerate acceptance of LGBT people living in the American South.


Welcome Aubrey Thonvold ReconcilingWorks Executive Director

Recently, I have been asked: How do I help my congregation have a conversation around marriage? (Short answer: slowly.) What are these so-called “religious freedom” bills and why are they so bad? I mean, don’t we all want to be “free” to practice our religion? (Very short answer: discrimination in the name of religion is still discrimination.) We are a newly married gay couple, but there is some unspoken unease in our congregation. How can we help change that? (Short answer: by being you, and congratulations!) I think I understand “gay” and “lesbian,” but I don’t understand “transgender.” Are transgender people made in God’s image too? (Short answer: absolutely yes!)


Life at the Intersection | Commercials

"Sometimes, you just have to say and do something!"

Some of you may be aware that in this present stage of my life, I work as an actor. I have been fortunate enough to be cast in two national commercials over the past nine months, and one of them is “on the air” now. I am also a proud member of SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). So I was surprised, saddened and greatly disappointed when I read that the Rev. Franklin Graham called for a boycott of Wells Fargo Bank because of a commercial featuring a partnered female couple learning sign language so they could adopt, and communicate with more fully, a new daughter.  Graham said,

“Wells Fargo Bank is using a same-sex couple in their advertising. And there are more. But it has dawned on me that we don’t have to do busin

ess with them. At the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, we are moving our accounts from Wells Fargo to another bank.”

Yes, commercials are meant to encourage you to “buy into” something, but the best commercials also are a hopeful and healthy reflection of our society, and the “Wells Fargo – Learning Sign Language” commercial does just that, as does the series of Wells Fargo ads released in the past six weeks. So, I realized between my disappointment and tears, I had to do something. I drove to the nearest Wells Fargo Bank, told the banker why I was there, and opened a new checking account. Then I went back home, looked at the ad a few more times, watched the ad I’m in, and clicked “Like” each time I watched the ads.

Dear ReconcilingWorks Friends in Christ, I encourage you to go and do something to affirm the Wells Fargo commercial, for from where I stand, saying  “no” to that ad is just like saying “no” to the ad I did, and also like saying “no” to our best selves as we seek to build the beloved community. See them for yourselves.

The ad I’m in is on YouTube - type in “Enjoy Illinois – Grandpa.” (Both of these ads have exceeded one million views on YouTube – thanks be to God!)

By the way, for the first time, the Chicago SAG-AFTRA Local will be marching in the Gay Pride Parade on June 28, and I will be there!  May God give us strength and courage this day and always!

In peace, love, and joy, Michael


Life at the Intersection | Baltimore

Life at the Intersection

Baltimore, Maryland is my “home away from home.”

For five years, Baltimore was my home. I learned how to be a musician and teacher at Peabody Institute, learned how to live “on my own” with a lot of help from friends and neighbors, and taught in the Baltimore City Public Schools for one delightful year. On Thursday, April 23, I was back in “B’more” to attend an Alumni Reunion, and I stopped by one of my favorite “hangouts”: Ted’s Music Store, on East Centre Street. The present owner greeted me warmly as I looked over the four trombones that were on display. I was pleased that the store, after forty years, was in good and capable hands.

Four days later, in the rage and unrest that followed Freddie Gray’s funeral, Ted’s Music Store was damaged and looted.

My heart sank, and I felt trapped. In the town where I learned about harmony on a host of levels, disharmony reigned for a moment. I then realized when lives are stolen, destruction, violence and stealing property seems to be a reasonable option. Many reasonable people have said we need to have a conversation about race. That is all well and good, but it seems to me that any useful conversation needs to begin with trust. How might we cultivate and build trust in our communities?

Our upcoming ReconcilingWorks Assembly “Until All Are Free,” will be an opportunity to try out the temperaments and tools for building and cultivating trust. I will be facilitating a workshop on “Building the Beloved Community” at this event. Feel free to come, let’s build together – and, see you at the intersections!

Michael L. Cobbler, Board Chair of Committee Working at the Intersection of Oppressions

MN Lutherans Against "License to Discriminate" Laws

OutFront MN Direct Action

ReconcilingWorks recently participated in OutFront Minnesota's Lobby Day, and in a direct action, marched to Minnesota Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt's office asking him to stop allowing bills that hurt LGBT people, their families, and black lives.

Bulletin InsertFAQsLetter to the editor

As Lutherans, our faith teaches us to love God and love our neighbor, it is not our place to judge, and to treat others the way we want to be treated. While outrage grows over potential discrimination allowed by religious refusal laws in Indiana and other states, Minnesota lawmakers are considering a bill that is designed to roll back the anti-discrimination protections LGBTQ Minnesotans have enjoyed since we passed the Human Rights Acts in 1993, under the guise of protecting the "religious freedom" of business owners — and government employees — to refuse to provide services that have any connection to marriages for same-sex couples, including rental housing.

This bill, SF 2158, was introduced today by Sen. Paul Gazelka (R - Baxter).

We are calling you, as clergy and members of congregations in Minnesota, to speak out. Your state and community need to hear from people of faith on this issue.

  • We ask that you talk with your families, friends, and congregation members to let them know how your love for God and your neighbor leads you to advocate—in civil life, in teaching, in preaching.
  • We encourage you to let your community know discrimination is wrong by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
  • We suggest that educational forums be presented in your congregations and synods.
  • Please let us know what action you take by sending email to Tim Fisher at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The 1991 ELCA social statement, The Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective, provides a firm foundation for advocating in the public sphere, stressing the Christian’s “responsibility to defend human rights and to work for freedom, justice, peace, environmental well-being, and good order in public life” and to “recognize the vital role of law in protecting life and liberty and in upholding the common good.”

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Additionally, we highlight the ELCA’s commitments made in the 2009 social statement, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, declaring its support for “legislation and policies to protect civil rights” for all and, in our call to “welcome, care for, and support same-gender couples and their families” to also “attend to the need for equal protection, equal opportunities, and equal responsibilities under the law.”

Please join us in the work to ensure all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Texans are able to live free of discrimination.

Please let us know how we can support you in your work of living out our Lutheran values.

Your partners in the work for equality,

Tim Fisher
ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation
Saint Paul, Minnesota

P.S. Please let us know what action you take by sending email to Tim Fisher at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Gettysburg Seminary Becomes RIC


The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, a seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) located in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, has been designated as Reconciling in Christ (RIC). Gettysburg joins Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, the Lutheran School of Theology Chicago, and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, as the fourth ELCA seminary to become RIC.

This means half of all ELCA seminaries are now RIC!

More information will come in the next Concord newsletter. Also, see the seminary’s news release here: